Background: Globally older persons (60+) are a rapidly growing population group with evidence of increased social isolation and loneliness in this group, especially for those living in residential care settings.To facilitate an intervention for social loneliness, a systematic review of interventions to reduce loneliness in older people was conducted
Objectives: What is the evidence of the effectiveness of interventions to decrease social isolation/loneliness for older people (60+) (inclusive of connected health interventions), living in community/residential care.
Methods: Registration in Prospero, followed by systematic search of 12 databases for articles published 2000-2017 in English using search term synonyms for older people and social isolation. Two independent researchers, and a third for discrepancies, screened articles and extracted data. Based on the high number of systematic reviews found at initial search, search was restricted to systematic reviews and AMSTAR was used to assess quality of reviews.
Results: Initial search revealed 13 relevant articles.There has been an increase in reviews in the past 5 years addressing social isolation and loneliness, especially from the East. Many studies failed to separate the concepts of loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness was most frequently measured using the UCLA [University of California Los Angeles], yet critiqued as insensitive to change. Social-isolation measures were multiple making it difficult to identify the most effective measure to improve or mitigate against social isolation. There was no uniform measure across reviews for effectiveness. Medium or high level of bias were evident with short-term efficacy seen after 6 weeks, yet longer sustained studies were less evident. Intervention studies were group, individual or connected health focused, with groups showing relevance. Rigour lacking in ICT studies with need to evidence facilitating conditions. Mobile phones were an untapped source for interventions for social isolation.
Conclusions:There is potential for developing interventions to address social isolation and loneliness using mobile phones combined with face-to-face contact.